1: Research More Thoroughly
Start with tourist board sites, which sometimes have great airfare, accommodation, or activity deals. They also note which airlines serve the destination, enabling you to narrow your list of airline sites to check for deals. When doing so, be sure to compare apples to apples, using the same parameters — for example, round-trip fares including taxes and fees — on all sites. Then compare prices on so-called aggregator sites such as Kayak. In general, you’ll find the best deals by booking your vacation at least 21 days out and traveling off season.
2: Don’t Be Afraid of Opaque Sites
On “opaque” or bidding sites like Priceline or Hotwire, the name of the hotel, airline, etc., remains hidden until after you buy. Don’t let this scare you. These sites can offer tremendous savings, especially if you know a destination’s going rates (see #1) before bidding. The downsides are that you won’t have the flexibility to change your travel plans, and you will have to pay in advance.
3: Look Into Package Deals
Not only can packages — which include airfare, accommodations, and, sometimes, a car — save you big bucks, but some also have perks like a free extra night at a hotel. Packages work best if you’re traveling with two or more people to a big city or a resort area for at least three days. Check out packages offered by airlines serving your destination or by sites such as the AARP Travel Center powered by Expedia or Orbitz. Also look at destination-specialist packagers: Pleasant Holidays, for example, offers a range of packages to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Tahiti.
4: Use a Travel Consolidator
Consolidators buy tickets from airlines in bulk and resell them at prices generally way below published fares. For years, they just sold to travel agents, but the Internet has changed that. And these discounted tickets are for regular flights on major lines — not stand-by flights or those on charter lines. One great consolidator is Expedia; to find others, check your newspaper’s Sunday travel section.
5: Book Through a Travel Agent
What’s old can be new again. If you don’t have the time or the temperament for research, consider booking your vacation through a brick-and-mortar or online travel agency. According to the American Society of Travel Agents, the average agency fee for booking an airline ticket — one that’s frequently the cheapest to be had — is only around $36. It’s a small investment that could pay great dividends. Travel agents are often destination experts, knowledgeable about deals and logistics. Plus, with one vacation booking e-mail or call, you can sort out everything. And, if you have any problems, your agent will generally go to bat for you.
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